Watch out! LA prepares for Car-mageddon
“Stay the heck out of here” warned one Los Angeles official. “Just go on vacation,” counseled another. “Let me just make something absolutely clear,” added City Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, “on July 16th and 17th, it will be an absolute nightmare.”
The doomsday scenario presented, at a City Hall press conference earlier this week, is neither an incoming hurricane, nor an approaching plague of locusts. It isn’t even a Harold Camping-style apocalypse. Instead, the good people of Southern California are being prepared for something truly terrifying: the closure of their favourite freeway.
The Interstate 405, which runs from San Diego to North LA, is believed to be America’s busiest road. A third of a million cars travel along it each day. At the best of times, it’s a 10-12 lane, smog-belching car-park. And for an entire weekend next month, it’ll shut for road-works. Most locals arer planning to either leave town, or stay indoors. For those that venture onto the roads, historic gridlock awaits. Headline writers are calling this prospect: “carmageddon.”
To understand how a single road closure can so terrify an entire metropolis, you need to appreciate the obsessive relationship between Angelenos and freeways. Swathes of this City have almost no public transport. House prices force people to live miles from work. As a result, natives virtually live in their cars. In parts of the city, the only people you see walking are homeless.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Before the war, LA had one of America’s best tram networks. Roads flowed. But then, in a historic civic scandal, a front company secretly owned by oil and car firms brought the tram firms, and promptly closed them down.
Today, as millions of citizens prepare to spend 48 hours fuming behind the steering wheels of gas-guzzling, air-conditioned SUVs, the boards of those same companies will no doubt be reflecting on a job well done.Tagged in: LA life
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